By Sophia Sajan (’22)
“I find no enjoyment in life anymore. I’m just sad and down and drained all the time. I lost all enjoyment for the things I used to love doing and my hobbies and all I want to do is sit in bed on my phone and I don’t know what to do anymore. And I just wanna go home to my birth country and be with my family.” – Anonymous
I wasted an entire year depressed about a situation I could not change. Living somewhere I did not want to live, spending the entire time sad, and angry, confused, depressed, and wanting to go home more than anything else.
One day it hit me: there is not a single thing I can do about it. This is where I am and this is where I am going to be. I spent about 500 consecutive days upset with the universe for dropping me there. But once I accepted it and tried to make life better for myself by letting people in and making friends, I actually started to like the place I had been so certain I would hate for eternity.
Then, I left that place and got dropped somewhere else. My biggest regret? Wasting a year and a half hating everything and everyone, including the girl who turned out to be my best friend. I could have had three awesome years, but instead I got one because I’d wasted the other two determined to hate it and be unhappy.
I am not saying to flip a switch and be okay with everything. I know that’s not how it works. I know these motions; you got there and you were fine, then around 4 months the realisation that you can never go back comes crashing down. You’re on this rollercoaster for the next year. Maybe two, or maybe three. Everyone’s different. But use this time trying to take care of yourself. Do not shut people out just because they aren’t the people you wish they were. The people around you, wherever you are, can be good in their own way. This horrible and weird place you’re living in can also be beautiful. I mean, take Michigan for example; every city is absolutely tiny and desert-looking, but if you look up, you can see the stars at nighttime. And people drink tap water!
Because the word “home” is so subjective, let’s call the place you left Location 1. This new place is called Location 2.
Nothing you say or do will reverse what has been done. Location 1 is a different place now. If you were to go back, you would find that you are a different person because of having left. I hated the new person I became, constantly looking back trying to remember who I was and failing miserably. I spent the entirety of last year attempting to convince myself I was okay, but I wasn’t. And that is okay.
It’s okay that you hate it. In my case, it’s okay that the tallest buildings are four-floored parking structures. It’s okay that everything is so open and the sky is so unnaturally blue-coloured and that cars actually abide by driving rules and that my dog doesn’t chase after squirrels because he was born in China and has never seen them before.
It. is. Okay.
I hate it here sometimes. I love it and I hate it and I go through the motions as I have always done. The Five Stages of Grief sum it up quite nicely.
Stage One: Lying to yourself.
You think you’re okay. You are convinced that you are fine. It has not hit you that you are gone yet. This is commonly called Denial. In my own experience, I have found myself actually thinking I am doing perfectly fine, convinced that moving on was perfectly easy. Look at me, I am thriving. Living my best life, as they say. Days are easy-breezy and I am the most social of butterflies. Looking back on any of those times I have been in that stage, everything is glossed over, completely numb. Smiling because I can’t feel it yet. Reality has not set in.
Stage Two: Hatred.
Then, all of a sudden you get knocked ten steps backwards. Some people might break down and cry… for a couple weeks straight, or others might take it out on new friends. For me, it was viciously hating every part of this country. If you had asked me, I would have told you I was adjusting swimmingly, which is code for How can you even ask me that? I
am an alien on this continent. Americans speak another language! How can you possibly spell favourite without a “u”? I hated every part of my school; the curriculum, the students, the building, for no other reason than the fact that they were not my old home. Everything is miserable, everything is worse than Location 1, and you find yourself angry at the universe for doing this to you.
Everything and everyone from Location 1 is so golden, so pure. Even the people that you spent every waking moment arguing with hurt to remember. Everything was so perfect. Nothing went wrong, not the way everything seems to go wrong in Location 2.
Stage Three: Can’t Go Back.
Being angry can last for an entire year. Don’t let yourself get there. I went down that road and it led to bad, bad things. You will likely spend months there, before realizing that you unknowingly moved on to the “bargaining” phase. This is where you think you could go back. And begin to realise you can’t. Even if you were to board a plane this instant and fly far far away, you think you won’t look back, but you will. As much as you are spending this time looking back at all you had and lost, you have more to lose wherever you currently are than you realise.
If you return to Location 1, you will find you are different. All the people you have met in Location 2 have changed you in these small, unnoticed ways that were invisible until you went back home. You saw all the people who meant everything to you move on. Slowly, your best friend isn’t tagging you in every selfie anymore, and you watch their stories with other people getting Starbucks. And there you are, trying to figure out why American’s phone numbers are only 10 digits.
Nothing can be as it was. What would I do to reverse time? Anything. But wait… I can’t do that. Because I would forget the great time I had with a new friend yesterday. But I am happy when I am sad and sad while I smile. For me, I always start to hate Location 1. I went from missing it and hating L2, to hating L1. In the beginning you couldn’t recall a single bad thing about Location 1, all of it was simply so good compared to Location 2. And then, to love Location 2, you start to be honest with yourself. It wasn’t as good as you remember. You actually fought with friends a lot, or you were doing awful in school and were constantly stressed out. When you grieve, you recall only the good things. Later, realisations of how imperfect Location 1 was begins to set in.
Even though Location 1 was a beautiful place and it was the time of your life, Location 2 is a new life. Unfortunately, moving killed you to put it bluntly. You died and you were reborn, as cliche as it sounds, and now you have a new life to live. All those people who changed you, changed you as much as they were meant to, and the universe plopped you in Location 2 because you have something valuable to learn still. There are people in L2 waiting to shake your perspective. Despite falling short of Location 1’s grandeur, Location 2 can surpass in ways you can only identify in hindsight.
Stage Four: Sadness.
You can’t seem to let people in because they don’t understand you at all. But you don’t quite belong back at L1 either. And slowly the word “home” disappears from your vocabulary. You don’t belong where you are, but you don’t belong over there anymore either. The pain, that horrible grief, has changed your brain. You cannot forget that.
Let’s not forget the insecurity. Do they miss you like you miss them? This was huge for me. Everything in my new life was compared to the bars my previous home set, and often this place fell short of meeting any of those. Being the one who has both left and stayed, we all grieve in different ways. Going to a school where kids come and go all the time, it was normal for someone to disappear and we missed them quietly. It was normal and expected, and you said goodbye and missed them before continuing on with life. If you were to miss every single person you lose, you’ll never have any time left to live. And so when somebody special leaves, you give them a parting gift, you hug them tight, and then you keep walking away. This is why being the person who is leaving, it hurts to understand this. That they don’t hurt the same. They aren’t suffering or miserable like me, because I never suffered this way when they left, so why would they suffer when I left?
It creates a ridge between you and what was once your home. Everything you loved feels sucked into a black hole. And you grieve as if the world exploded. Talking to someone you love, and still love and will love forever, seems to hurt. You feel like a fish out of water in Location 2, but you can’t talk to anyone from Location 1 because they don’t understand what you’re going through either.
So you’re totally alone. Nobody can understand, so you’re alone forever, right?
Stage Five: Peace.
Wrong. You feel misunderstood, but don’t we all? We are all weirdos pretending to be our idea of normal and failing pretty miserably. While I am “cultured” according to people at my new Location they are absolutely strange in their own way. Growing up in the same place has been dismissed in my head as easy. Knowing a friend closely for more than a few years? Incomprehensible. However, staying in the same place can be brutal. What if I were bullied and was stuck there? No escape; where would you go? I do not understand what it would be like to have a first language other than English or to be the child of divorced parents. I can not understand any of those pains or struggles.
None of these are greater or lesser pains, simply different griefs. I have found a simple peace by existing in harmony. Why get angry over the lack of understanding for the facts of my life when I can’t change them no matter how much I scream and kick? I accept that just as they cannot comprehend the axis of pain my world spins on, I cannot understand theirs.
With this, I can let people in. I no longer want to scream in their face “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE”, and wallow in self pity. I can’t change the fact that most kids haven’t moved across the earth. So, I managed to let it go.
You, Sir or Madam Anonymous, will find a family. It may take years to realise it, but you will find things and people you enjoy. I want to say “can’t live without”, but you and I both know we lost those things and are still breathing. The world takes on a new meaning for you, and while feeling displaced never really fades, it gets easier. Even manageable, as out-of-this-world as that sounds.
But it does. You truly wake up one morning and realise you’re excited to see [insert person here] at school, and find yourself naming them your best friend, or there is nearly a meter of snow on the ground and you can not wait for your dog to see it for the first time. It could be anything you never knew you were missing. Look for these things now, even while you still love and hate it all. No matter how absolutely bloody horrid Location 2 is, list all the things you may find even slightly tolerable.
And you’ll find that you are okay. Healing isn’t what I call it, as that word never fits for me, but you could call it ‘growing’, I suppose. When a tree loses a branch, a huge vital part of itself, it still grows. That hole is always there, that gap in the expanse of leaves and bark, but it closes over and continues on up, leading to new branches and leaves.
It is strange to find myself saying I like it in Location 4. Even though everyone spells words wrong or laughs hysterically when I ask where the rubbish bin is– or walk down the corridor, or take a lift, or pull into the car park– it is actually okay. You will like it too eventually, in your own crazy, unexpected way. Who knows what you will find surprisingly pleasant? Who could have guessed that not having a driver can actually be so much fun because now I can drive?
You will see some good in all of it someday.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, certainly not next week, but by 2021, you will have discovered at least an ounce of happiness. I promise you, and you can hold me to this one, you will be absolutely fine.